The art of working with silver, or silversmithing, can be both rewarding and lucrative. Creating jewellery and decorative objects from silver requires both the right tools and good techniques. As intimidating as it may seem at first, you can create beautiful silver jewellery with minimal equipment and space.
While you don't need to invest thousands in special equipment, you will need some basic tools for successful silversmithing projects. You can find some items at a hardware store, and others through dealers who specialise in metalworking. To get started you will need a jeweller's saw and blades, needle files, a ball-peen hammer, a hand-held torch, solder, flux and silver pickling compound. Safety should be important when you set up your work area, so always use fire bricks or pads when using the torch, keep a fire extinguisher nearby and wear eye protection. Watch your fingers. As your silversmithing hobby grows, you'll find other tools and equipment for more sophisticated projects.
Raising is a simple technique that is at the core of silversmithing. Raising is achieved by forming a sheet of silver over a metal form. Working with the reverse side of the metal is called "repoussé" and is done by hammering the metal over the form. This is done in conjunction with "chasing," the reverse of repoussé, to create a hollow form.
Annealing is the process used to make silver softer and easier to work. When silver is worked and bent, it becomes hard and brittle. Through the process of forming the piece, it will need to be annealed at least once to continue working without cracking or breaking it. Anneal silver by heating it and then submersing it in a pickling solution. You can do this up to five times without the silver losing its ability to soften.
Forging is done by hammering a silver sheet into a desired form. Most forging can be done with a basic ball-peen hammer, but to achieve a more refined look, use special planishing hammers with highly polished surfaces. Forging stakes, or forms, are used to shape the metal and are available in a variety of shapes and sizes.